An asteroid has grown tail

An asteroid has grown tail

Astronomers have discovered the tail of a long-open asteroid.

Often, it is easy to distinguish a comet from an asteroid. The nucleus of a comet consists of a stone and ice. As the comet begins to approach the sun, the ice heats up and begins to evaporate, forming a cloud around the comet (“to whom”) and a long tail that follows the comet under the influence of the solar wind. Asteroids, in turn, are almost entirely composed of stone, while possessing a number of characteristics similar to comets.

But in recent years, studying the well-known celestial bodies of the main belt of asteroids - the cluster of stony space bodies located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter - the researchers found that the long-known asteroids have incredible similarities with comets.

Previously, scientists have already discovered more than a dozen asteroids with tails, and now another one has joined them. Asteroid 62412, located in the main asteroid belt and belonging to the family of Hygea, was discovered more than ten years ago, and only now it became known that it has a tail like a comet.

The family of Hygea was formed as a result of the collision of a large asteroid (Hygea), which has a diameter of 250 miles and is the fourth largest object in the main belt, with another asteroid. Hythea asteroids make up 1 percent of all objects in the main belt.

Discovered by astronomers Scott Sheppard of Carnegie University, Washington, and Chadwick Trujillo of Gemini Observatory, 62412 is the thirteenth asteroid with a tail, the phenomenon of which has yet to be studied. In recent years, the capabilities of observatories have expanded considerably, which makes it possible to study asteroids with lumps and tails. Could the tail cause ice to evaporate, causing huge amounts of dust to be released into space? Or is the tail formed as a result of an asteroid colliding with another space object?

“Ten years ago everything was very clear: this is a comet, and this is not a comet. But as soon as these objects were discovered, everything changed,” Sheppard says.

Sheppard and Trujillo presented their research at the International Scientific Conference on November 11 of this year, it can also be read on the pages of the Astrophysical Journal.

The researchers found that asteroid 62412 rotates around its axis at high speed, which may be one of the factors affecting the appearance of the tail. This rotation may set in motion various substances on the surface of the asteroid, which, in turn, release subsurface ice. In this case, the phenomenon of the tail may be associated with evaporation.

According to the estimates of Sheppard and Trujillo, in the main asteroid belt there can be up to one hundred similar objects that have yet to be discovered and explored. But today, the mechanism of the formation of comet asteroids remains a mystery to science.

Comments (0)